Mindfulness gives you space in the present moment to look internally and at the external world around you, where you can safely deal with problems and painful memories, it allows you look at and plan for the future from the security of the present moment.
Active mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime bringing greater awareness into your life. When we are living in the moment we aren’t worrying and creating stories about the future. Instead of having an expectation of what something is going to be like only to be disappointed, just wait and see. Expectations are created by our imaginations. We don’t know what will happen in the future.
The same process is going on if you are worrying that something bad is going to happen in the future, you are projecting your worries and putting your energy into something that hasn’t happened, you are only imagining what may happen. These are just thoughts, they aren’t real, they are only ideas of what you think may happen.
The chatter in the mind that is often referred to as the monkey mind, the thoughts that go on in our heads, clogging up our minds and never giving us peace, lists of thoughts leading us on a continuous railway journey from one thought to the next, starting in the laundry basket and leading to a daydream of the circus.
Mindfulness is the practice of coming into the present moment, noticing the surroundings, being truly present in the environment, pausing to have a break from the chatter of the mind. If you stop and look around you will notice things you don’t see, the swaying of the telegraph lines, the rustle of the wind in leaves of the trees, the way the sunlight glints though the tree and shines on the grass. The texture of a fence railing, the colours of the rocks or pavement under your feet, the sun shining or reflecting in a window, the sounds of birds, the smell of rain, cut grass, cooking, even unpleasant smells are more real than the chatter in your mind.
Mindfulness brings you into connection with the universe, it makes you aware that nothing is separate, that all things are connected. The shady tree you are standing under can’t grow without the rain and sun, it needs the help of insects and wind for pollination, the earth isn’t fertile without the mulch of the leaves and the worms under the ground. You can’t exist without air and water and food and food can’t exist without air and water and nutrients, everything is interconnected. Mindfulness is a moment to stop and pause in this inter-connectedness.
If your mind is disturbed the best thing to do is stop, take some deep breaths which will slow your heart rate, slow your mind and look around, come back into the present moment to get a view of your true situation, stop your thoughts for a moment, rest your mind in mindfulness. Overtime you will not only become less anxious but you will be able to see the beauty in the smallest thing, a butterfly, a pebble or even a stick, all of life will take on a magical glow.
Mindfulness can be used just for its physical and mental benefits, detached from the eastern concepts and philosophies that traditionally accompany the practice. But when practiced without the original ideas of good living and morals such as Buddhas noble eight fold path, Yoga's Yamas and Nyamas, or Christianity's 10 commandments, mindfulness becomes just another prop for the ego.
Sit for a few minutes with your awareness on your body, on your senses and sensory perceptions of your environment. Then move your awareness on your breath. Use your breath and your senses to anchor you in the present moment . Keep your awareness partly on your breath and body and your environment.
Notice thoughts that arise. Notice, pay attention to and accept these thoughts, without judgment. Thoughts are not bad or good, positive or negative, they just are what they are – the thought that you happen to be having at this particular moment. Sometimes there are many thoughts, one overlapping the next: memories, plans, fantasies. There may seem to be no gaps at all in which you can catch a glimpse of your breath. That's not uncommon, especially if you're new to meditation. Just notice what happens without judgement.
If you find yourself so caught up in thoughts that you have forgotten that you're sitting in the room, just gently bring yourself back to the breath. Notice that your have been thinking, but don’t worry about it, just make a neutral observation: "Thinking has just occurred." kind of like a weather report: "Thinking has just been observed in the vicinity."
In between each thought there is a gap. As you look at your thoughts you will start to see the gap between them. Let your mind rest in the gap, it is in this space that you will find peace. As you become more familiar with your mind, the gap will become longer.
If you are new to meditation, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Eventually, you could extend it to 45 minutes or an hour.
Mindfulness meditation is about noticing what arises, it is not about trying to make your mind become blank, or trying to stop the mind from thinking. So if you find you are thinking (and you will), include it in what you notice. Don't try to get rid of your thoughts. It won't work and it's the opposite of the spirit of the practice. Just notice them and let them go.
Be with yourselves as you already are. We are not trying to change ourselves into some preconceived notion of how we ought to be.